KINGMAN - Two former early childhood education students with the Western Arizona Vocational Education-JTED program brought home top medals this month after competing on the national level in Nashville.
Dyllan Farney, 18, a 2013 graduate of Kingman High School, earned a gold meal for his presentation about how the school's Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) organization has helped the community.
And William Medina, 18, who graduated from Mohave High School in Bullhead City this year, captured a silver medal by trying to remove cultural barriers at day cares in the Bullhead City and Kingman high schools.
"It was a great experience to go to nationals," said Farney. "It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that not many graduates can say they experienced.
"When they called my name as the gold-medal winner, I almost started crying. It was crazy."
Farney, the group's president for two years, said FCCLA takes needy children on a $100 shopping spree for new clothes and raises money for the March of Dimes.
He covered a large poster board with pictures and information about the organization's fundraising activities and community service projects and spoke about them to judges.
Medina's project came to him after he noticed young children asking about differences between themselves and others. Instead of answering their questions, teachers ignored them so they wouldn't offend anyone.
"It made the children think that asking questions was wrong," said Medina. "They wanted to know why children were other colors, talked different from them and had unusual names. We were studying this problem in early childhood education and I thought it was an interesting topic that didn't have much data from small communities like ours."
Farney and Medina brought home gold medals at the FCCLA state contest in March, which qualified them for the national competition.
The two winners spent eight days with an advisor in the Music City.
Farney said he was able to do some sightseeing in Nashville, touring Ryman Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He also attended leadership workshops, including one where he heard professional skateboarder Mike Smith talk about his struggles and successes. Another workshop focused on how graduating seniors could stay connected and help out their FCCLA organizations.
That message hit home for Farney, who is staying in Kingman for a year to serve as a mentor for FCCLA at Kingman High School. Farney plans to study early childhood education through Grand Canyon University's online school before attending on campus in Phoenix in 2014.
"I want to be able to leave a legacy for our chapter," said Farney, who will serve as an advisor for the incoming junior president. "I want to show the members how to keep fighting, never give up and reach for the stars."
Medina said he plans to attend Mohave Community College for a year before transferring to Northern Arizona University to become a music teacher. Medina said he enjoyed the trip and got to try a lot of new things, like eating alligator and smoked eel. Also, he said, it was hotter in Nashville and much more humid.
"I took home from nationals that even an average guy like me can do something good with his life and help people," said Medina, who attended workshops by skateboarder Smith and Doc Hendley, who runs a nonprofit providing clean water in needy countries.
"Those guys never felt like they would amount to anything, but they found out that if they put their mind to it, they could do whatever they wanted."